June 29, 2017: SS. PETER AND PAUL (PART I)
June 29, 2017: SS. PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES
Rank: Double of the I Class.
(Part I - Significance of this Festival)
“Thou wilt set them rulers over all the earth; and they shall remember thy name, O Lord.”
O God, who hast consecrated this day by the martyrdom of thy glorious Apostles Peter and Paul; grant thy Church may in all things follow their directions, by whom was laid the foundation of her religion. Thro’ thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
On this day Simon Peter ascended the gibbet of the cross. Alleluia.
On this day the keeper of the keys of the kingdom went with joy to Christ;
this day Paul the Apostle, the light of the world,
laid down his head for the name of Christ, and was crowned with martyrdom. Alleluia.
Eternal glory’s beauteous ray
Has spread with holy fires the day
Which crowns these Princes, and invites
All sinners to unheard delights.
Heav’n’s porter and the Gentiles’ light,
Rome’s parents, equal deaths unite:
A cross revers’d, and cruel sword
Send them victorious to their Lord.
O Rome how happy is thy fate,
Whom two such Prelates consecrate!
In thee so rich a purple dwells,
That thine all beauties else excels.
To God th’all-ruling one and three
Be never ceasing jubilee,
Eternal glory, endless praise
For an eternity of days. Amen.
V. Their sound hath gone all over the earth.
R. And their words to the utmost bounds of the globe.
PART I – Significance of this Festival.
Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Behold the hour when the answer which the Son of Man, exacted of the Fisher of Galilee,
re-echoes from the seven hills and fills the whole earth. Peter no longer dreads the triple interrogation of his Lord. Since that fatal night wherein before the first cock-crow, the Prince of the Apostles had betimes denied his Master, tears have not ceased
to furrow the cheeks of this same Vicar of the Man-God; lo! the day when, at last, his tears shall be dried! From that gibbet whereunto, at his own request, the humble disciple has been nailed head downwards, his bounding heart repeats, now at last without
fear, the protestation which ever since the scene enacted on the brink of Lake Tiberias, has been silently wearing his life away: Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee! (St. John, xxi.)
Sacred Day, on which the oblation of the first of Pontiffs, assures to the West, the rights of Supreme Priesthood! Day of triumph, in which the effusion of a generous life-blood wins for God the conquest of the Roman soil; in which upon the cross of his representative, the Divine Spouse concludes His eternal alliance with the Queen of nations!
This tribute of death was all unknown to Levi; this dower of blood was never exacted of Aaron, by Jehovah: for who is it that would die for a slave?—the Synagogue was no Bride! (Gal, iv. 22-31) Love is the sign which distinguishes this age of the new dispensation, from the Law of servitude. Powerless, sunk in cringing fear, the Jewish priest could but sprinkle with the blood of victims substituted for himself, the horns of the figurative altar. At once both Priest and Victim, Jesus expects more of those whom He calls to a participation of the sacred prerogative which makes Him Pontiff, and that for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. (Ps, cix. 4) I will not now call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth: thus saith He to these men whom He hath just raised above angels, at the last Supper; But I have called you friends, because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you. (St. John, xv. 15) As the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love. (St. John, xv. 9)
Now, in the case of a Priest admitted thus into partnership with the Eternal Pontiff, love is not complete, save when it extends itself to the whole of Mankind ransomed by the great Sacrifice. And, mark it well: this entails upon him, more than the obligation common to all Christians, of loving one another as fellow members of one Head; for, by his Priesthood, he forms part of that Head, and by this very title, charity should assume, in him, something in depth and character of the love which this divine Head bears towards His members. But more than this; what, if to the power he possesses of immolating Christ, to the duty incumbent on him of the joint offering of himself likewise, in the secret of the Mysteries,—the plenitude of the Pontificate be added, imposing the public mission of giving to the Church that support she needs, that fecundity which the heavenly Spouse exacts of her? Oh! then it is, that (according to the doctrine expressed from the earliest ages by the Popes, the Councils, and the Fathers,) the Holy Ghost adapts him to his sublime role by fully identifying his love with that of the Spouse whose obligations he fulfils, whose rights he exercises. But then, likewise, according to the same teaching of universal tradition, there stands before him the precept of the Apostle; yea, from throne to throne of all the Bishops, whether of East or West, the Angels of the Churches pass on the word: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered himself up for her, that he might sanctify her. (Eph, v. 25-26)
Such is the divine reality of these mysterious nuptials, that every age of sacred history has blasted with the name of adultery, the irregular abandoning of the Church first espoused. So much is there exacted by such a sublime union, that none may be called thereunto who is not already abiding steadfast on the lofty summit of perfection; for a Bishop must ever hold himself ready to justify in his own person, that supreme degree of charity of which Our Lord saith: Greater love than this no man hath, that he lay down his life for his friends? (St. John, xv. 13) Nor does the difference between the hireling and the true Shepherd end there; (St. John, x. 11-18) this readiness of the Pontiff to defend unto death the Church confided to him, to wash away even in his own blood every stain that disfigures the beauty of this Bride, (Eph, v. 27) is itself the guarantee of that contract whereby he is wedded to this chosen one of the Son of God, and it is the just price of those purest of joys reserved unto him: These things have I spoken to you, saith Our Lord when instituting the Testament of the New Alliance, that My joy may be in you and your joy may be filled. (St. John, xv. 11)
If such should be the privileges and obligations of the Heads of the Churches, how much more so in the case of the universal Pastor! When regenerated man was confided to Simon, son of John, by the Incarnate God, His chief care was in the first place, to make sure that he would indeed be the Vicar of His love; that, having received more than the rest, he would love more than all of them; (St. Luke, vii. 47; St. John, xxi. 15) that being the inheritor of the love of Jesus for His own who were in the world, he would love, as He had done, even to the end. (St. John, xiii. 1) For this very reason, the establishing of Peter upon the summit of the Hierarchy, coincides, in the Gospel narrative, with the announcement of his martyrdom; (St. John, xxi. 18) Pontiff-king, he must needs follow even unto the cross, his Supreme Hierarch. (St. John, xxi. 19-22)
The Feasts of his two Chairs, that of Antioch and that of Rome, have recalled to our minds, the Sovereignty whereby he presides over the government of the whole world, and the Infallibility of the doctrine which he distributes as food to the whole flock; but these two feasts, and the Primacy to which they bear witness on the sacred Cycle, call for that completion and further sanction afforded by the teachings included in To-day's festival. Just as the power received by the Man-God from His Father (St. Matth, xxviii. 18) and the full communication made by Him of this same power to the visible Head of His Church, had but for end the consummation of glory, the one object of the Thrice-Holy God in the whole of His work; (St. John, xvii. 4) so likewise, all Jurisdiction, all Teaching, all Ministry here below, says Saint Paul, has for end the consummation of the Saints, (Eph, iv. 12) which is but one with the consummation of this sovereign Glory: now, the sanctity of the creature, and the glory of God, Creator and Saviour, taken together, find their full expression only in the Sacrifice which embraces both Shepherd and flock in one same Holocaust.
It was for this final end of all Pontificate, of all Hierarchy, that Peter, from the day of Jesus's Ascension, traversed the earth. At Joppa, when he was but opening the career of his Apostolic labours, a mysterious hunger seized him: Arise, Peter; kill and eat, said the Spirit; and at that same hour, in symbolic vision were presented before his gaze, all the animals of earth and all the birds of heaven. (Acts, x. 9-16) This was the gentile world which he must join to the remnant of Israel, on the divine Banquet-board. Vicar of the Word, he must share His vast hunger; his preaching, like a two-edged sword, will strike down whole nations before him; his charity, like a devouring fire, will assimilate to itself the peoples realising his title of Head, the day will come when as true Head of the world, he will have formed (from all mankind, become now a prey to his avidity) the Body of Christ in his own person. Then like a new Isaac, or rather, a very Christ, he will behold rising before him, the mountain where the Lord seeth, awaiting the oblation. (Gen, xxii. 14)
Let us also “look and see;” for this future has become the present, and even as on the great Friday, so now, we already know how the Drama is to end. A final scene all bliss, all triumph: for herein deicide mingles not its wailing note to that of earth's homage, and the perfume of sacrifice which earth is exhaling, does but fill the heavens with sweet gladsomeness. Divinised by virtue of the adorable Victim of Calvary, it might indeed be said, this day, that earth is able now to stand alone. Simple son of Adam as he is by nature, and yet nevertheless true Sovereign Pontiff, Peter advances bearing the world: his own sacrifice is about to complete that of the Man-God, with whose dignity he is invested; (Coloss, i. 24) inseparable as she is from her visible Head, the Church likewise invests him with her own glory. (I Cor, xi. 7) Far from her now, the horrors of that mid-day darkness, which shrouded her tears when, for the first time, the cross was up-reared. She is all song; and her inspired Lyric celebrates “the beauteous Light Eternal that floods with sacred fires this Day which openeth out unto the guilty a free path to heaven.” (Hymn of Vespers) What more could the day of the Sacrifice of Jesus Himself? But this is because by the power of this other cross which is rising up, Babylon becomes to-day, the Holy City. The while Sion sits accursed for having once crucified her Saviour, vain is it on the contrary, for Rome to reject the Man-God, to pour out the blood of his Martyrs like water in her streets,—no crime of Rome's is able to prevail against the great fact fixed for ever at this hour: the cross of Peter has transferred to her all the rights of the cross of Jesus; leaving unto the Jews the curse, she now becomes the True Jerusalem.
Such being then the meaning of this Day, it is not surprising that Eternal Wisdom should have willed to enhance it still further, by joining the sacrifice of Paul to that of Peter. More than any other, Paul advanced by his preachings, the building up of the body of Christ. (Eph, iv. 12) If on this Day, holy Church has attained such full development as to be able to offer herself, in the person of her visible Head, as a sweet smelling sacrifice, who better than Paul may deservedly perfect the oblation, furnishing from his own veins the sacred libation? (Coloss, i. 24; II Cor, xii. 15) The Bride having attained fulness of age, (Eph, iv. 13) his own work is likewise ended. (II Cor, xi. 2) Inseparable from Peter in his labours by faith and love, he will accompany him also in death; both quit this earth, leaving her to the gladness of the divine Nuptials sealed in their blood, whilst they ascend together to that eternal abode wherein that union is consummated. (II Cor. v)
from: The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806; and
The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. III, Dublin, Edition 1890.
V. Thou art Peter.
R. And on this rock, I will build my Church.
V. Thou art a vessel of election, O holy Paul, the Apostle.
R. The preacher of truth throughout the whole world.